CASPER, Wyo. — Mule deer numbers in southwest Wyoming have been declining for decades. As researchers continue to try and understand why, they may receive a helping hand.
The Muley Fanatic Foundation unveiled Tuesday an unprecedented $1.3 million, five-year project to study a mule deer herd south of Rock Springs.
“The bottom line is, we’re only as good as the information we have,” said Joshua Coursey, the foundation’s president. “There’s no silver bullet, and we know that. It’s an array of things causing the decline, the changing habitat and competition with elk and feral horses and depredation and unfriendly fences, the list goes on and on.”
The project will be done in partnership with the University of Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Unlike other research projects, which often wait until long after the study is finished to release results, this endeavor will give biologists access to up-to-the-minute data, Coursey said. The plan is to help biologists understand problems deer face more quickly, which could lead to faster solutions.
Researchers will focus on the Little Mountain herd near Rock Springs.
“This is completely different than other projects. It is in a very prized area,” he said. “It makes the perfect lab not only because it is a tremendous area for deer and elk and has very little disturbance, but also because it borders two other states. We have to figure out where our deer are going.”
Information will be collected from radio collars and satellite monitoring. The study will also use a full-time researcher from the cooperative unit and implants in female animals to show birth rates.
The project comes on the heels of a recent sportsmen’s summit in Daniel meant to focus more attention on mule deer and reasons for their decline.
“What we learn about the challenges facing mule deer on Little Mountain will aid in understanding reasons behind our struggling mule deer populations in Wyoming and beyond, and what we can do to help them,” Kevin Monteith, an assistant research professor with the cooperative unit and the project’s principal investigator, said in a prepared release.
The Muley Fanatic Foundation, a grass-roots Wyoming organization advocating for mule deer, plans to raise the $1.3 million through raffles, memberships and other efforts.
For more information go to www.muleyfanatic.org.